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What To Look For – Conference Championships

SUPER TURNAROUNDS: On Championship Sunday, the Super Bowl LVI participants will be determined. In the AFC (3:00 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+), the CINCINNATI BENGALS (12-7) take on the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (14-5) while the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-7) travel to SoFi Stadium to face the LOS ANGELES RAMS (14-5) in the NFC (6:40 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes).

With Cincinnati and San Francisco, this marks the fifth year since 1970 in which multiple teams have advanced to their conference Championship Games the year after finishing in last or tied for last place in their divisions. 

If either team wins this weekend, it will become the fifth team to advance to the Super Bowl the season after finishing in last place in its division since 2000.

The teams to appear in the Super Bowl the season after finishing in last place in their division since 2000:

SEASONTEAMSUPER BOWL PRIOR SEASON RECORD
2017Philadelphia*LII7-9
2009New Orleans*XLIV8-8
2003CarolinaXXXVIII7-9
2001New England*XXXVI5-11
*Won Super Bowl

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

CHAMPIONSHIP COACHES: Each of the four head coaches remaining in the 2021 postseason can cement themselves in NFL history with victories on Sunday. 

In the AFC, Kansas City’s ANDY REID became the fifth head coach in league history to guide his team to at least four consecutive Championship Games. He is aiming to advance to his fourth Super Bowl as a head coach, and third with Kansas City. Overall, Reid has 19 postseason wins, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA for the third-most in league history.

With a win on Sunday, Reid will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer TOM LANDRY (20 wins) for the second-most postseason wins by a head coach all-time. Only BILL BELICHICK (31) has more. 

The head coaches with the most career postseason wins in NFL history:

HEAD COACHTEAM(S)POSTSEASON WINS
Bill BelichickCleveland, New England31
Tom LandryHOFDallas20
Andy ReidPhiladelphia, Kansas City19
Don ShulaHOFBaltimore Colts, Miami19
Joe GibbsHOFWashington17


Cincinnati’s ZAC TAYLOR is looking to become the sixth individual in league history to win each of his first three career postseason games as an NFL head coach and the first since DOUG PEDERSON in 2017. 

In the NFC, both San Francisco’s KYLE SHANAHAN, who brought the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV in 2019, and Los Angeles’ SEAN MCVAY, who took the Rams to Super Bowl LIII in 2018, are looking to advance to their second Super Bowls as a head coach. 

Each coach was hired by his current club in 2017 and the winner of the NFC Championship on Sunday will become the fifth individual in league history to advance to two Super Bowls within his first five seasons as an NFL head coach. 

The individuals to advance to two Super Bowls within their first five seasons as a head coach in NFL history:

HEAD COACHTEAMSUPER BOWLS
Mike TomlinPittsburghXLIII, XLV
Jimmy JohnsonHOFDallasXXVII, XXVIII
Joe GibbsHOFWashingtonXVII, XVIII
Tom FloresHOFOakland/L.A. RaidersXV, XVIII

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

KANSAS CITY OF CHAMPIONS: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS are the first team in league history to host four consecutive Championship Games. With a win on Sunday, they would become the fourth team all-time to advance to three-or-more consecutive Super Bowls. 

The teams to appear in at least three consecutive Super Bowls in NFL history:

TEAMSEASONSSUPER BOWLS
New England3 (2016-18)LI – LIII
Buffalo4 (1990-93)XXV – XXVIII
Miami3 (1971-73)VI – VIII


Quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES led the Chiefs to each of the past two Super Bowls and with a win on Sunday can become the 13th quarterback all-time to start in three-or-more Super Bowls, and the sixth to do so before turning 30 years old. Mahomes, who will be 26 years and 149 days old on the day of Super Bowl LVI, would become the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start three Super Bowls. 

Mahomes enters Championship Sunday after recording 378 passing yards and three touchdown passes in the Divisional Round against Buffalo, and 404 passing yards and five touchdown passes on Super Wild Card Weekend against Pittsburgh.

With at least 300 passing yards against Cincinnati, Mahomes would become the first player ever to record at least 300 passing yards in three games within a single postseason.

With three touchdown passes, he will become the fourth player ever to record at least three touchdown passes in three games within a single postseason, joining TOM BRADY (2014), JOE FLACCO (2012) and AARON RODGERS (2010). Each of the previous three players won Super Bowl MVP that same postseason. 

The players with the most games with at least three touchdown passes in a single postseason in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMPOSTSEASONGAMES
Tom Brady*New England20143
Joe Flacco*Baltimore20123
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay20103
    
Patrick MahomesKansas City20212
*Won Super Bowl MVP

In Kansas City’s Divisional Round victory, tight end TRAVIS KELCE totaled eight catches for 96 yards and the game-winning touchdown reception in overtime. He has now recorded at least 95 receiving yards in five consecutive postseason games, the longest streak in NFL history. In his postseason career, Kelce has 96 receptions, 1,196 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions. 

With four catches on Sunday, Kelce will become the third player in league history to record 100 career postseason receptions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (151 receptions) and JULIAN EDELMAN (118).

The players with the most postseason receptions in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)RECEPTIONS
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco, Oakland, Seattle151
Julian EdelmanNew England118
Rob GronkowskiNew England, Tampa Bay98
Travis KelceKansas City96
Reggie WayneIndianapolis93


Wide receiver TYREEK HILL led the team with 11 catches for 150 receiving yards and a touchdown last week. It marked his second-career postseason game with at least 150 receiving yards. Hill can join LARRY FITZGERALD as the only players ever to record at least 150 receiving yards in three career postseason games.

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

JOE & JA’MARR: Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW is expected to become the first quarterback ever drafted first overall to start a conference Championship Game within his first two seasons. 

With a win, Burrow, who was selected with the first overall pick out of LSU in 2020, will become the third quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO and BEN ROETHLISBERGER.

Burrow enters Championship Sunday after completing 28 of 37 attempts (75.7 percent) for 348 yards in the Divisional Round against Tennessee. On Super Wild Card Weekend against Las Vegas, he completed 24 of 34 attempts (70.6 percent) for 244 yards and two touchdowns. 

On Sunday, Burrow can become the first quarterback ever to record a completion percentage of 70-or-higher in each of his first three career postseason games (minimum 25 attempts). 

Burrow’s top target this season has been wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE, who recorded 1,455 receiving yards in the regular season, the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. After recording 109 receiving yards last week and 116 in the Wild Card Round, Chase’s 225 postseason receiving yards are the third-most ever by a rookie. 

With 18 receiving yards at Kansas City, Chase will surpass TORRY HOLT (242 receiving yards in 1999) for the most postseason receiving yards by a rookie in NFL history.  

The rookies with the most postseason receiving yards in NFL history: 

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Torry HoltSt. Louis Rams1999242
Austin CollieIndianapolis2009241
Ja’Marr ChaseCincinnati2021225


With at least 100 receiving yards on Sunday, Chase will join LARRY FITZGERALD (first four career postseason games) as the only players ever to record at least 100 receiving yards in each of their first three career playoff games. 

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

BRING IT HOME: When the LOS ANGELES RAMS host the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, it will mark the first time in league history that a Championship Game will be played in the same stadium that will host that year’s Super Bowl. 

With a win on Sunday, the Rams will become the second team ever to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium, joining the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, who won Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium last year.

Either the Rams or their opponent this week, the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, will become the sixth team ever to play in a Super Bowl that was hosted in its home state.  

The Super Bowls with a team playing in its home state:

SUPER BOWL SITEDATEWINNING TEAMLOSING TEAM
LV Tampa, FLFebruary 7, 2021Tampa BayKansas City
XXXVII San Diego, CAJanuary 26, 2003Tampa BayOakland Raiders
XIX Stanford, CAJanuary 20, 1985San FranciscoMiami
XIV Pasadena, CAJanuary 20, 1980PittsburghLos Angeles Rams
XI Pasadena, CAJanuary 9, 1977Oakland RaidersMinnesota


Los Angeles quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD is set to appear in his first-career Conference Championship. He ranked second in the league with 41 touchdown passes during the regular season in his first season as a Ram. 

Stafford can become the fifth different quarterback in league history to record at least 40 regular-season touchdown passes and reach the Super Bowl in the same season.  

The quarterbacks to record at least 40 regular-season touchdown passes and reach the Super Bowl in the same season:

SEASONPLAYERTEAMTOUCHDOWN PASSESSUPER BOWL
2020Tom BradyTampa Bay40LV
2013Peyton ManningHOFDenver55XLVIII
2007Tom BradyNew England50XLII
1999Kurt WarnerHOFSt. Louis Rams41XXXIV
1984Dan MarinoHOFMiami48XIX


Stafford’s top target this season has been wide receiver COOPER KUPP, who led the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and touchdown receptions (16). If Los Angeles wins on Sunday, Kupp will become the third different player ever to lead the league in receiving yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season. 

The players to lead the league in receiving yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDSSUPER BOWL
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco19941,499XXIX
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco19891,423XXIV
Drew PearsonHOFDallas1977870XII


Linebacker VON MILLER has recorded a sack in each of Los Angeles’ postseason games this year. Going back to his 2015 postseason with Denver, when he was named Super Bowl 50 MVP, Miller has recorded a sack in four consecutive postseason games. 

With a sack on Sunday, Miller will become the fifth player since 2000 to record a sack in at least five consecutive postseason games. 

The players with a sack in at least five consecutive postseason games since 2000:

PLAYERTEAM(S)GAMES (DATES)
Lamar WoodleyPittsburgh7 (Jan. 5, 2008 – Feb. 6, 2011)
Frank ClarkSeattle, Kansas City5 (Jan. 14, 2017 – Feb. 2, 2020)
Simeon RiceTampa Bay5 (Jan. 12, 2002 – Jan. 7, 2006)
Willie McGinestNew England5 (Jan. 27, 2002 – Feb. 1, 2004)
   
Von MillerDenver, L.A. Rams4* (Jan. 24, 2016 – Jan. 23, 2022)
*Active streak  
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